Jiro Ono once said, “If sushi was a religious cult (which it should be if you ask me), the way in which people use soy sauce would be considered blasphemy of the highest order and condemnable by eternal damnation.“
Sushi chefs glaze the sushi while it is being given with a black sauce on top instead of allowing customers to do it themselves so they don’t misuse or overdid it in soy sauce.
What is the black sauce on sushi? This is a soy sauce-based sauce named nikiri. It is made with soy sauce, sake, and mirin. It is a thick sauce made through reduction by boiling. This black sauce on sushi is a special sauce but does not seem to be much in existence now. But there are also other black sauces being used on sushi in different places.
This article will go over how to make the black sauce for sushi, the ingredients used in it, how to use it on sushi, and other related topics. Continue reading if you’re curious about this mysterious sauce; black sauce on sushi.
Origin of Black Sauce on Sushi
There isn’t much information available about the origins of the black sauce on sushi; nikiri sauce. It was, however, widely used in Japan during the Edo period.
This was the time when Japan was ruled by the Tokugawa Shogunate and the country’s 300 regional damayo, and it lasted from 1603 to 1868.
“To bring to a boil” is the meaning of the word nikiri. The sauce arose from the goal of creating the ideal bite. It’s brushed on sushi and other foods to add just the right amount of taste.
The concept of crafting the perfect bite is well-known throughout Japan, dating back to medieval Japan and continuing through Imperial Tokyo’s growth.
Yet, there are many different theories about how nikiri came to be, but the most popular one is that it was created during the Edo period in an effort to create the perfect bite.
LEARN MORE: What Is Hokkigai Sushi?
What Is the Taste and Texture of Black Sauce on Sushi?
Black sauce on sushi, or nikiri sauce, is a soy sauce-based sauce. It is made by boiling and simmering the ingredients together to achieve the appropriate consistency and taste.
Nikiri is also known as “sweet soy sauce.” It has a similar flavor to soy sauce, but it’s sweeter, lighter, and has a unique umami flavor.
The sauce also tastes slightly salty and tangy, with a slightly sweet undertone. The thickness of the sauce will depend on how much you reduce it by boiling.
LEARN MORE: What Is Shinko Sushi?
How to Use Black Sauce on Sushi?
In contrast to other types of sauces, nikiri is applied by the chefs themselves. It is hardly used or served as a dipping sauce. This is because chefs want to make the perfect bite with just the correct proportion of sauce when applying nikiri.
It is usually brushed onto sushi rolls or nigiri right before eating to give them an extra flavorful boost.
When the chef has applied the sauce to sushi, you can be confident that you have the perfect amount of sauce and flavor on your sushi. In this case, no other condiment is required.
The black sauce on sushi is used to glaze the food or sushi by using a pantry brush in a dabbing motion rather than swiping or brushing. The amount has to be perfect, not too much, not too little.
Furthermore, it is important to be gentle when dabbing the black sauce on sushi and creating surface tension.
Experienced chefs understand how to use black sauce or nikiri for sushi and do their best to ensure that customers do not ruin the taste by doing so themselves.
New chefs are often a little too heavy-handed and may use more than is necessary. However, it is important to be gentle and dab a thin layer of black sauce on sushi to get the perfect bite.
LEARN MORE: What Is the Orange Sauce on Sushi?
How Is Black Sauce on Sushi Made?
Nikiri is a short form of nikiri syouyu. Nikiri is mirin or sake (or a combination of the two) that has been boiled down to remove the alcohol content (or the cooking method of the liquid seasoning) and is commonly used in Japanese cuisine.
The basic ingredients of black sauce on sushi or nikiri are soy sauce, mirin, and sake.
Although Nikiri Shoyu is commonly made solely with Koikuchi Shoyu or dark soy sauce, some Japanese cooks prefer to use a combination of Koikuchi Shoyu and Usukuchi Shoyu.
Ingredients: Makes 3/4 cup of nikiri
- 1 cup shoyu / high-quality soy sauce (235 grams, 8.3 ounces)
- 1 cup tablespoons mirin / sweet rice wine (235 grams, 8.3 ounces)
- 1/4 cup homemade dashi / kombu-bonito stock (50 grams, 1.7 ounces)
- 1 1/2 tablespoons sake/rice wine (25 grams, 0.9 ounces)
Process: After mixing all the ingredients in a pan, allow it to simmer for 15-20 minutes and evaporate at the same time by leaving the lid open. After evaporation, only 2 cups should be remaining.
The sauce should be thick enough to evenly coat the back of a spoon. The consistency needs to be perfect; not too thick or thin.
Most chefs make their own version of this black sauce on sushi or nikiri. Or if you are making it at home, you can add your own variations by using tamari sauce with mirin.
LEARN MORE: What Is the Sweet Brown Sauce on Sushi?
Other Uses of Black Sauce on Sushi
Nikiri Shoyu is also called Sushi Shoyu or Sashimi Shoyu, because of its prevalent use on sushi and sashimi. Besides, it is also popular for brushing it on different types of Japanese fish dishes including raw and cooked fish.
The sauce can also be used as a dip for other Japanese dishes such as yakitori, tsukune, and tebasaki. The black sauce on sushi is also used to marinade maguro, katsuo, and yaki onigiri.
Nikiri is an all-purpose sauce that can be used in many different ways. It’s a great way to add flavor to any dish, and it’s also a healthy option since it’s made with natural ingredients.
LEARN MORE: What to Dip Sushi in Besides Soy Sauce?
Are There Any Other Black Sauces on Sushi?
Apart from nikiri sauce, which is most commonly used on sushi among other black sauces, there are also other black sauces. Some of them are:
- Teriyaki Sauce: A thick, sweet, and savory sauce that is made from soy sauce, sugar, rice wine vinegar, and ginger. It’s a popular sauce for chicken, beef, pork, salmon, shrimp, and tofu. It is also popularly used on sushi.
- Eel Sauce: A sauce that is made with soy sauce, sugar, rice vinegar, and mirin. It is a popular sauce for feel but is also popular for use on sushi.
Substitutes of Black Sauce on Sushi
The sauces that are soy sauce-based are good substitutes for black sauce on sushi. There are numerous substitutes for niriki but most of them cannot give a taste as good as niriki. However, they all go very well on sushi. The substitutes are:
- Teriyaki sauce
- Eel sauce
- Plain Soy sauce
- Tonkatsu sauce
- Tamari sauce
- Ponzu sauce
- Liquid Coconut Aminos sauce
- Fish sauce
In the absence of nikiri sauce, you can always use these substitutes. But, sushi chefs believe nikiri sauce to be the best classic sauce to be used on sushi.
LEARN MORE: What Is Nori Maki Sushi?
Conclusion: What Is the Black Sauce on Sushi?
Famous sushi chef Jiro Ono believes that if restaurants cannot provide you with black sauce on sushi or nikiri sauce, you should order your sushi without any other sauce so you can experience the authentic taste of it.
Other than nikiri, no other sauce can provide the true flavors of sushi.
In the quoted passage, he also discussed the incorrect use of soy sauce with sushi. He considers excessive use of soy sauce with sushi to be blasphemy.
However, the black sauce on sushi is a beautiful dark, thick but fluid sauce that goes perfectly with your sushi when used in the proper amount.